Longevity diet and Fasting-mimicking diet

The longevity diet and the Fasting-mimicking diet.

The longevity diet and the Fasting-mimicking diet described by Valter Longo might be for those who prefer to live well for a long time.

Longevity diet

I can’t say I follow it strictly myself, but I tend to appreciate the food when I do get in the mood to follow it once in a while.

I haven’t come up with this. I just appreciate the idea and the book he wrote. So, instead of getting back to the book when I want to repeat something because I thought about something I couldn’t quite remember – or if someone asks me something – I wrote a snippet about it. Some of my clients are quite ambitious, so I thought this could come in handy. It’s easier to live up to those ambitions if you’re healthy and live long.

It could be worth trying if you aim to live long enough to make an impact.

It might just be the difference that gives you a few more decades…

Foundation, what, how, and why?

Some live far longer than others. Some are pretty decent at 110 – and some seem to be hundreds of years old when they’re 60. How could there be such a difference? Genetics might be a part of it, but that’s not something we can tend to. We can manage life, however, such as what we eat. In his book, Valter writes: “Nutrition is clearly the most important factor you can take control of to affect how long you live, whether you will be diagnosed with certain major diseases, and whether you will be active and strong or sedentary and frail in old age.”

Plenty of diseases have age as the highest risk factor. Type II diabetes used to be called “age diabetes”, and it’s when we get older, we suffer from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and Alzheimer’s disease. Cancer among children does occur, but it does get more, and more likely the older one gets.

With this diet, the ambition is, in large, to not signal for anabolism [building and synthesizing tissue in the body, in contrast to catabolism] which is supposed to lead to decreased aging and to less risk of developing cancer, CVD, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, inflammation and thereby auto-immune troubles. “Decrease aging” – or rather decrease the consequences that usually come from it.

Anabolism is reduced by eating fewer things that affect, increase or benefit the growth hormone and IGF-1, for example. High protein intake activates growth hormone receptors, increasing insulin levels and insulin-like growth factor 1(IGF-1). Protein and some amino acids, such as leucine, can activate TOR-S6K, a set of genes that accelerate aging. PKA, another group of genes, might make us live shorter when activated. Sugar activates these.

So, according to this, we’re practically at the conclusion that what’s good for muscle growth is likely the opposite of what’s good for long-term health.

It’s been shown that a lower caloric intake leads to a longer lifespan. Mice who eat 30-40% less live longer, develop about half as much cancer and get effects on other age-related diseases as well. Practically the same has been shown with primates.

But some things point to the fact that a long-term caloric restriction might lead to consequences. There have been voluntary experiments with caloric restriction, where they have been eating too little for a couple of years – and didn’t look too happy afterward. We have seen catastrophic results long term and even in generations to come, likely from epi-genetics, when prisoners and likewise have been starving for long durations of time.  Over time, a 20+ percent reduction in caloric intake might affect wound healing and immune response, for starters.

Consequences don’t sound like something one would like to strive for, even though most things have theirs. Could they be mitigated to get the benefits but not the negative parts?

The solution to the fact that anabolism leads to various diseases and physiological consequences might lie within the long-term diet. Another necessary component seems obvious; it’s impossible to have a constant caloric restriction. The results and the protective effect stay around for quite some time after the caloric restriction, so the solution to the long-term consequences of eating a restrictive diet might be fasting once in a while to get the positive results, but generally eating enough.

Starting to experiment with this by putting cancer patients treated with chemo on a water-only fast wasn’t very popular. They didn’t really find the process particularly enjoyable, but the results were promising. So some sort of diet could be useful, though it had to please the patients more than just water, as long as it gave the same results.

When studying mice, it’s been shown that a fasting state – and through that a “protective state” – is achieved when:

  • IGF-1 decrease
  • Glucose decrease
  • Ketone bodies increase
  • Growth factor inhibitor, IGFBP1, increases.

The fasting diet with low glucose, low protein, and a decent, but not a high amount of fat has been shown to:

  • Increases life span even though consuming the same amount of calories per month
  • Reduces weight, of which most was abdominal fat.
  • Keeps muscle mass.
  • Decreases age-related bone loss.
  • Gives fewer tumors by removing old, less useful cells.
  • Leads to less inflammation
  • Increases several types of stem cells, useful for the pancreas, nervous system, and immune system.
  • Regenerates tissue related to the liver, muscle and brain.
  • Increases test scores in motor control, learning, and remembering.

The body stops building and uses old parts to be more efficient with what it’s got. Either smaller building stones or complete, but more or less dysfunctional, cells – and use those as fuel. It also starts shifting into using abdominal fat as a fuel source.

Two to three days might be necessary to begin getting the protective effects of fasting. The “intermittent fasting” of eating 8/16 doesn’t seem to get the same result. The point of the FMD is to be as effective as fasting but still:

  • Provide sufficient calories to be safe outside of a clinic.
  • Provide a variety of components that most people can enjoy

How often should one do the fasting-mimicking diet?

  • Once per month for overweight/obese with at least two risk factors for diabetes, cancer, CVD, or neurodegenerative disease.
  • Once per two months if normal weight with at least two risk factors for diabetes, cancer, CVD, or neurodegenerative disease.
  • Once per three months if normal weight with at least one risk factor for diabetes, cancer, CVD, or neurodegenerative disease.
  • Once per four months for inactive but healthy patients with a normal diet.
  • Once per six months for active, healthy patients eating the longevity diet.

The diet Valter Longo prefers to achieve a long life.

Based on decades of research in various ways and epidemiological studies within blue zones.

  • Eat mostly vegan, plus a little fish, limiting meals with fish to a maximum of two or three per week. Choose fish, crustaceans, and mollusks with a high omega-3, omega-6, and vitamin B12 content (salmon, anchovies, sardines, cod, sea bream, trout, clams, and shrimp.  Pay attention to the quality of the fish, choosing those with low levels of mercury.
  • If you are below age 65, keep protein intake low (0.31 to 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). That comes to 40 to 47 grams of protein per day for a person weighing 130 pounds  (~60 kg) and 60 to 70 grams per day for someone weighing 200 to 220 pounds (~90-100 kg). Over age 65, you should slightly increase protein intake and increase consumption of fish, eggs, white meat, and products derived from goats and sheep to preserve muscle mass. Consume beans, chickpeas, green peas, and other legumes as your main source of protein.
  • Minimize saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources (meat, cheese) and sugar, and maximize good fats and complex carbs. Eat whole grains and high quantities of vegetables (tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, legumes, etc.) with generous amounts of olive oil (3 tablespoons per day) and nuts (1 ounce per day).
  • Follow a diet with high vitamin and mineral content, supplemented with a multivitamin buffer every three days.
  • Select ingredients similar to what your ancestors would have eaten. This is one way to reduce the chance of eating what’s causing allergic reactions or things you’re intolerant to, such as lactose. This point might be the least important, but it’s there to avoid what might be bad. One good reason is this quote: “Although clear links have not been proved yet, it is possible that consumption of the wrong foods based on ancestry could be associated with many autoimmune disorders, including Crohn’s disease, colitis, and type 1 diabetes.”
  • Based on your weight, age, and abdominal circumference, decide whether to have two or three meals per day. If you are overweight or tend to gain weight easily, consume two meals a day: breakfast and either lunch or dinner, plus two low-sugar (less than 5 grams) snacks with fewer than 100 calories each. If you are already at a normal weight, or if you tend to lose weight easily, or are over 65 and of normal weight, eat three meals a day and one low-sugar (less than 3 to 5 grams) snack with fewer than 100 calories.
  • Confine all eating within twelve hours; for example, start after 8 a.m. and end before 8 p.m. Don’t eat anything within three to four hours of bedtime.
  • Practice periodic prolonged fasting if you are under sixty-five, not malnourished, and not ill in any way that makes it a bad idea. You should fast twice every year for at least five days. Larger people or those who risk illness where the diet and fasting might contribute to keeping the illness away might increase the frequency of the fasting period. There are examples of those who’ve done it a few times a month, but a more balanced way of doing it would be once a month or once every other month to get going.
  • Keeping to the points above is likely to lead to several things, where a smaller waist circumference might be one. One study followed 359.000 European adults for ten years. A large waist circumference and abdominal fat were associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Men with a 40-inch waist instead of 33 and women with a 35-inch waist instead of a 27 were of double the risk of premature death.

The fasting-mimicking diet.

Used to get the body into a fasting mode, but without the complete lack of food. Not to be applied to 70+ or fragile people, pregnant women, or those underweight or suffer from anorexia. Those who suffer from illness or pathology might have to keep the ailments in mind and perhaps alter medications.

Day 1, 1100 calories, either as three meals or two and a snack.

500 calories from complex carbohydrates. Vegetables like lentils, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin…

500 calories from healthy fats. Nuts, olive oil…

25 grams of plant-based protein, mainly from nuts.

1 multivitamin

1 Omega-3 supplement

Tea and water to taste…

Day 2-5, 800 calories either as three meals or two and a snack.

400 calories from complex carbohydrates. Vegetables like lentils, beans, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin…

400 calories from healthy fats. Nuts, olive oil…

1 multivitamin

1 Omega-3 supplement

Tea and water to taste…

Day 6, “transition diet”.

The ideal is to keep to a diet with mostly complex carbs and minimize animal-based protein and fat.

Drastically reducing the energy intake might lead to headaches, hunger, and diffuse pains and aches. Those usually vanish by day 4-5, as things get accustomed. Some look and feel better quite soon – and change how they eat positively once they begin eating normally again.

The exercise regimen

Also defined as “optimizing energy in summary” in the book. And it sure is a summary – and it’s far from the hip, trendy, and complex fitness regimen you might find…

  • Walk fast for an hour every day.
  • Take the stairs instead of escalators and elevators.
  • On the weekend, walk everywhere, even faraway places (avoid polluted areas as much as possible).
  • Do moderate exercise for 2.5 to 5 hours a week, with some of it in the vigorous range. Most beneficial effects appear to be caused by the first 2.5 hours of exercise, making the additional exercise optional.
  • Use weight training or weight-free exercises to strengthen all muscles.
  • To maximize muscle growth, consume at least 30 grams of protein in a single low-carb meal 1-2 hours after a relatively intense weight-training session.
  • Even shorter, but saying practically the same thing would be “Move and load things.” Personally, I’d focus on walking, calm jogging, and moving to keep pain-free as I did this.

It could be worth trying if you aim to live long enough to make an impact.

It might just be the difference that gives you a few more decades…

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